Ventura on Writing

Michael Ventura on writing:

No class can cultivate what a writer most needs, the gift I call the “talent of the room.” Writing is something you do alone in a room. If you don’t have a talent for being in that room, your other talents are useless. Before any issues of style, content, or form can be addressed, the fundamental question is: How long can you stay in that room, for how many hours, for how many years? That’s the writing part of a writer’s life. Nothing romantic about it. It’s the one thing about writing that’s straight up-and-down. No matter your felicity with words, no matter how good a tale you have to tell, if you can’t spend a long time alone in a room, you can’t be a writer. Classroom learning happens in a classroom, a room filled with other people, and no classroom can teach solitude. Which is why most writing courses, by their very nature, ignore the fundamental thing a writer needs: the ability to cultivate the subtleties of solitude.

The whole thing is well worth a read if you are so inclined.

My own musings about the writing process can be found here.

And now I must resume spending time alone in my room.

4 Responses to “Ventura on Writing”

  1.   Andrew
    June 12th, 2007 | 6:04 pm

    I guess one thing a classroom can provide is a room full of people who expect you to produce a body of work that can only be produced if you spend time alone in your room. It’s indirect cultivation, but then a lot of teaching, to be effective, is really facilitating rather than the stereotypical top-down thing.

    And I’d definitely take “alone in your room” as a metaphor to some point: I can write for a long time in a room full of other people. It’s about choosing discipline over “inspiration” (in the romantic sense).

    But that can be a danger: to interpret solitude in that same romantic sense – it can become an analogue of inspiration: “well, I’m alone now, why aren’t the words falling out of my sleeves?” – and it can become an analogue of the solitary genius thing: eg the Victorian image of Shakespeare alone in a garrett, rather than out the back of a busy theatre…

    hmmmm, this is all meant as “yes, and…” rather than “no, this…”

  2.   Administrator
    June 12th, 2007 | 11:33 pm

    Did you click through to the article? He spends a bunch of time talking about writing teachers (he is one himself) and classes, and what makes them good or bad in his opinion.

    I don’t think he means solitude in a romantic sense.

  3.   Andrew
    June 13th, 2007 | 10:48 am

    Nope. Didn’t realise there was one.

  4.   Administrator
    June 13th, 2007 | 12:24 pm

    On this page anything orange is something that can be clicked on.